Police Involvement in Black Bloc and Deliberate Provocation of Violence — More Reports


[The following two media-based reports indicate police infiltration of and involvement with “Black Bloc” violence in Genoa and Barcelona. In the first item, Victor Grossman cites reports appearing in the German and Italian press. In the second, an Associated Press reporter says, “The police charged the crowd after a small group of masked men and women who appeared to be police agents staged a fight at the edge of the park in full view of a line of riot police." These reports were posted on July 25 by portside, an e-mail service with news, discussion and debate provided by the CoCs (Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism). This service aims to provide varied material of interest to people on the left.]


On the Genoa Violence

by Victor Grossman


Was the “Black Bloc” of Genoa not so black after all? (“Black” in European parlance often is used to indicate “anarchist.”)

The left-wing press in Berlin (e.g., Neues Deutschland) notes that some eyewitnesses saw members of the Black Bloc getting out of police cars and passing into the fenced-in Red Zone with no difficulty. They say the men spoke German and Spanish. The Italian Communist newspaper Liberazione was quoted as saying that police forces from other countries may have been helping their Italian colleagues—without uniform—by provoking the politically desirable violence.

A 40-year-old woman from London, Rosy Kirwan, from the organization Globalise Resistance was quoted directly: “On Friday we were on the Piazza Manini for a peace rally with prayers, jazz music, and book stands, when suddenly [members] of the Black Bloc turned up. The police were nearby but did nothing. When the anarchists departed the police attacked our peaceful demonstration with no holds barred, even attacking a minister, who had fled to a side street and was on the ground.”

According to the Swiss sociologist Riccardo Petrella, there were many indications that groups of the Black Bloc were infiltrated by the police. This was confirmed by the independent media network Indymedia and the Italian film maker Dario de Ferrario, who showed a film made by a colleague showing government agents who put on “No G-8” T-shirts and mixed with the demonstrators. The whole Black Bloc was not made up of policemen, of course, Petrella said. “We agree with [their] criticism and analysis of capitalist institutions but not with the methods employed...” Members of the Black Bloc evidently saw “no possibility to achieve anything without violence,” the sociologist said.

In the last analysis the Black Bloc proved to be a “useful instrument for police strategy” (from Neues Deutschland, July 23 and 24, 2001).

Left-wingers in Berlin recalled that at one of the annual May Day demonstrations which, as almost every year, ended in violence, police radio calls were intercepted directing some of supposed “masked anarchists” to the desired areas.


[The following Associated Press report was dated June 24, 2001.]

Police Turn Globalization Protest Violent in Spain


BARCELONA, Spain—Riot police made what appeared to be an unprovoked attack Sunday on anti-globalization protesters gathered in a city park following a midday march down a main boulevard. At least 32 people were slightly injured and 19 were arrested.

Thousands of screaming and shouting demonstrators, some with small children, fled in panic as the police pushed into the crowd behind shields, wielding truncheons and firing blank gunshots.

“We raised our arms and shouted, ‘Peace, Peace,’ but they just kept coming,” said a woman who identified herself as Yolanda.

The march along Passeig de Gracia and rally at the Plaza de Cataluña, along with other weekend activities, were organized to coincide with a World Bank meeting originally scheduled for this week. Officials canceled the meeting last week to avoid violent [sic!] protests that have marred meetings of global and regional institutions in the past two years.

The march was largely peaceful, but some store windows were broken along the route, among them a Burger King restaurant and a Swatch store. Small groups of men and women taunted riot police.

Thousands of other demonstrators joined the marchers at the park following the march. They had been peacefully listening to speakers and chanting slogans when the police swept through the plaza.

The police charged the crowd after a small group of masked men and women who appeared to be police agents staged a fight at the edge of the park in full view of a line of riot police standing in front of police vans. A few dozen demonstrators were pulled into the violence.

“Police provoked the fight. They were part of it,” said Ada Colau, a spokeswoman for the Campaign Against the World Bank, one of the protest organizations.

Reporters watched as the police appeared to use the staged scuffle as bait to pull protesters into it and then use it as a pretext to charge into the park. A second charge emptied the park within minutes.

The masked assailants, some of them apparently wearing earphones, had gathered in groups on the fringes of the protest march as it arrived at the park after passing down a dozen blocks of the boulevard.

They were wearing knapsacks and carrying sticks, but were able to walk freely past police, pull on their masks and position themselves between the edge of the crowd in the park and the police lines 25 yards away.

The fight began when one man grabbed another and pulled him to the ground. Others from the same group began kicking and slugging each other.

When demonstrators saw what was going on and joined the fight, the police charged into the park. The men and women involved in the scuffle walked through the police line and boarded the vans.

A reporter asked one of them if they were police. He at first said yes, and then said no, before walking undeterred by police to the vans.

State television said 19 people were arrested, and the news agency Efe quoted emergency medical services as saying 32 were slightly injured with bumps and bruises.

Anti-globalization activists from a potpourri of organizations have been showing up at summits of the World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank, institutions they claim widen the gap between rich and poor.

Some protests resulted in violent clashes with the police, most recently at the European Summit held in Goteborg, Sweden, this month, when several people were wounded by gunshots fired by the police.